My grandmother was one of the most wonderful, strong, brave, independent and intelligent women I have ever met. And SO naive!
Right after the war, she was divorced with three girls to feed…so she took a job as a waitress. Now, even though it didn’t pay as well as working in the weapons plant, she’d waitressed before and figured she could handle herself serving drinks again.
The bar was in Newport, Kentucky…the red light district…but it was work and although she could live on peanut butter and crackers, her girls couldn’t.
And although she’d had three children, she was still pretty and looked much younger than she was…and the tips proved it.
Unfortunately, so did the “compliments” offered by her more inebriated customers. She learned to take in stride the come-ons, the pick up lines and the occasional slaps on the rear. They were just men being men and since she always took care not to encourage them or walk home alone, she let it slide.
Then one night, it stopped. “Hey, honey!” became “Excuse me, miss.” The innuendo became “please” and “thank you.” The cat calling stopped. The whistling stopped. The rear slapping stopped.
It was so odd that she commented about it to one of the other girls. “Charlie said something,” was her reply.
“After you left the other night Charlie told the whole bar that you were different and you weren’t to be messed with.”
Charlie, the owner of the bar, knew that she was a single mother…she figured that was what prompted the sudden defense of her honor. But he was a little man who was no threat to anyone, except maybe to how much whiskey you got…but there were bars everywhere in that part of town and so it still didn’t make sense to her why anyone would pay attention to little old Charlie. Anyway, she didn’t work there much longer after that and soon she forgot all about Charlie’s proclamation.
Until a few years later…when Charlie’s picture was on the cover of the local paper. He’d been gunned down in front of that same little bar in a police raid. You see, Charlie was a genuine, bona fide, gangster. My grandmother had worked for the mob…and she’d never even known it.
~ David Berenson, Florence, Kentucky